If brunch is only as good as the coffee served (discuss), then the recently rehabbed brunch at Elate (Hotel Felix, 111 W Huron St, 312-202-9900) just got ten times better. Now under the control of chef Mike Noll, Elate has switched to using Crop to Cup beans. The results are…satisfactory. Oversized mugs of the stuff are a step above the—how do we put this?—leading brand of upscale coffee beans. And when mixed with Frangelico, chocolate liqueur and cocoa powder in a coffee cocktail, it’s got a nice, round smoothness to it. But the new coffee cocktails at Elate aren’t really for brunch but for dinner, and that is perhaps where we should focus our next Elate outing—at brunch, the coffee was the best part. There was an awkward tower of pulled pork and crunchy tortilla chips; entirely too large hunks of pork belly incorporated into a Benedict; and a stack of pancakes topped with a thin layer of brûleéd custard, an interesting idea that might have taken off if the pancakes had been less dense.
Speaking of pancakes that don’t quite work, the lifeless stack of buttermilk-ricotta pancakes at Quay (465 E Illinois St, 312-981-8400) really don’t work. They contain miniscule amounts of ricotta, are topped with a bland dollop of passion-fruit cream and taste like mush. And the mush doesn’t stop there: It was also present in the overly thick fold of egg suffocating a sparse blend of chewy lobster and black truffle (a.k.a. Quay’s signature omelette). The chicken hash—rubbery bits of “crispy chicken” stuffed inside a squishy papa rellena with a side of eggs—was the most glaring example of menu misrepresentation, though its thick pool of chicken gravy was quite good, packing just the right amount of black-pepper heat. It made us wish we’d ordered the simple biscuit-and-gravy plate instead. Or perhaps we should have held onto the confounding basket of dinner rolls presented to the table at 11am?
Man. We Boldfaced Brunchers are sounding a little weary this week, aren’t we? It’s not so bad out there. In fact, there’s a lot we liked waking up to at 25 Degrees (736 N Clark St, 312-943-9700). But first, we need to talk about the Breakfast Sandwich. Picture, if you would, a burger. Airy bun, slathered with mayo, leaf of lettuce, some nice strips of bacon on there, a big slice of really good, strong Gruyère. Now picture someone taking the burger patty away and serving the remaining sandwich to you for breakfast. Are you down with that? We kind of are.
But we’re also kind of obsessed with the “soft scrambles,” specifically Soft Scramble Number Three, which combines tender scrambled eggs with green chili sauce for a take on chilaquiles. Our sweetheart of a server motioned to the Bloody Mary bar—bottomless ones are $15—and suggested we help ourselves to the smorgasbord of hot sauces. We ordered something sweet to counter the heat, piling on the guilt of eating a burgerless burger for breakfast with slices of ciabatta French toast smothered in maple syrup. Everyone gets dessert at brunch, right?